In 2014, Alberta Environment and Parks asked Visscher to determine if the wildlife-friendly fences around the Wainwright Dunes Ecological Reserve were doing their job.
Visscher undertook to answer the question over the summer months with a student-researcher using images taken along the fence lines by motion-activated cameras. The images (over 400,000 of them) not only confirmed the fences’ value, but also provided a fascinating glimpse into how wildlife used the fences to shield themselves from being hunted.
Notable patterns emerged such as elk using the reserve as a refuge during they day, then crossing the fence to spend sunset to sunrise foraging in farmers’ fields. During hunting season or during a bright moon, the elk would shorten their stay in the fields. This was a key finding to Visscher's overall research on how animals trade off foraging reward and predation risk.
This article was published March 9, 2017 in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.
Darcy Visscher, “Human risk induced behavioral shifts in refuge use by elk in an agricultural matrix,” the Wildlife Society Bulletin, Volume 41, Issue 1, March 2017.